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Penguin: Adult Hardcover & Trade Paperback Summer 2019

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The Poison Thread
A Novel
By (author): Laura Purcell
9780143134053 Paperback, Trade English General Trade FICTION / Historical / General Jun 18, 2019
$22.00 CAD
Active 5.05 x 7.72 x 0.59 in 368 pages Penguin Books
A thrilling Victorian gothic horror tale about a young seamstress who claims her needle and thread have the power to kill

Dorothea Truelove is young, wealthy, and beautiful. Ruth Butterham is young, poor, and awaiting trial for murder.

When Dorothea’s charitable work brings her to Oakgate Prison, she is delighted by the chance to explore her fascination with phrenology and test her hypothesis that the shape of a person’s skull can cast a light on their darkest crimes. But when she meets one of the prisoners, the teenaged seamstress Ruth, she is faced with another strange idea: that it is possible to kill with a needle and thread—because Ruth attributes her crimes to a supernatural power inherent in her stitches.

The story Ruth has to tell of her deadly creations—of bitterness and betrayal, of death and dresses—will shake Dorothea’s belief in rationality, and the power of redemption. Can Ruth be trusted? Is she mad, or a murderer? The Poison Thread is a spine-tingling, sinister read about the evil that lurks behind the facade of innocence.

Story Locale: Victorian England

HORROR IS HAVING A MOMENT: With tremendous atmosphere and a timeless evocation of classic ghost stories, Laura Purcell will appeal to fans of classics like The Haunting of Hill House as well as current horror crazes like American Horror Story and the films Hereditary and The Babadook.

JOJO MOYES IS A FAN!: She called The Silent Companions an “extraordinary, memorable and truly haunting book.”

INCREDIBLY ATMOSPHERIC READ: Laura Purcell writes fantastic, classic Victorian gothic stories, and she powerfully conjures the feeling of that moment in history.

BASED ON A TRUE STORY: Various threads in the book have real life connections. The story of the abused apprentices at the dress shop was inspired by the Old Bailey records from the murder trial of thirteen-year-old milliner’s apprentice Ann Nailor. She met her death in 1758 at the hands of a mother and daughter both named Sarah Metyard. The gruesome death of Rosalind Oldacre through poisonous green material also had a real life inspiration. Artificial flower-maker Matilda Scheurer died in 1861 with identical symptoms.

Laura Purcell is the author of The Silent Companions. She worked in local government, the financial industry and a bookshop before becoming a full-time writer. She lives in Colchester, the oldest recorded town in England, with her husband and pet guinea pigs. Fascinated by the darker side of royal history, Laura has also written two historical fiction novels about the Hanoverian dynasty.

Author Residence: Colchester, UK

Marketing: Social media and online promotion

Library promotions / Twitter

Publicity: Print and online reviews and features

Author Website:

Author Social Media: Twitter @SpookyPurcell

Praise for The Poison Thread:

[The Poison Thread is] a compelling slice of early Victorian gothic…Vivid and well researched, this book is an evocative portrait of a society that punishes women who dare to contravene social norms…a splendid mystery with suitably melodramatic flourishes.“—The Guardian

The Poison Thread [sent] chills shooting down my spine…Nods to the classic gothic novel and Sarah Waters’s Affinity.“—Red

”Phantasmic thrills…A true page-turner.“—Times Literary Supplement

”This gothic chiller casts an addictive spell.“—Sunday Mirror

”With the skill of a born story teller Laura Purcell has crafted a tale as intricate and flawless as Ruth’s stitches. By turns horrifying and humorous, The Poison Thread is a darkly compelling, unsettling and fascinating book, where pseudo-science meets needlework in the most chilling and unexpected ways…the very best kind of gothic fiction. Reminiscent of Sarah Waters and Margaret Atwood, but uniquely and unmistakably Laura Purcell."—ES Thomson, author of the Jem Flockhart Mysteries

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